France declares war against Al Qaeda after hostage killed
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said his country was at war with Al Qaeda after the group's affiliate in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, announced it murdered a French aid worker it had held hostage since April.
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France will step up military and intelligence assistance to North African governments to “track down the terrorists and hand them over to the judiciary,” Mr. Fillon said.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it killed retired French engineer Michel Germaneau on Sunday in retaliation for a failed attempt by French commandos and Mauritanian troops to release Mr. Germaneau from an AQIM camp in Mali. Fillon said today Germaneau may have been killed prior to the raid.
AQIM has expanded in the lawless hinterlands of Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and Algeria in recent years and been responsible for numerous kidnappings. But French specialist Jean Pierre Filiu argues the group has only 200 to 300 members in two wings and is unpopular even with local criminal gangs, who see AQIM as “not following any rules.”
“In 2003 [Al Qaeda] detained 32 hostages. Today they have only two Spaniards left. That’s two too many, but one cannot speak of a ‘surge,’” says Mr. Filiu, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris and author of The Nine Lives of Al Qaeda.